The Evanston Health Department Tuesday announced the first reported probable case of monkeypox in an Evanston resident.

Confirmatory testing for monkeypox is pending at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The case remains isolated and Health and Human Services staff are working to ensure public health guidelines are followed.

“The risk to Evanston residents remains low, but we want individuals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of monkeypox so that they seek medical care if they develop,” said Health and Human Services Director Ike Ogbo.

Monkeypox does not spread easily between individuals and the time between exposure and when symptoms start allows health officials time to track down contacts and break the chain of infection, Ogbo said. The department is working actively to track close contacts to the case and make them aware of their risk in order to reduce possible transmission. Only one close contact has been identified at this time.

Here’s some background information on the disease from the health department.

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare, but potentially serious, viral illness belonging to the orthopoxvirus family. Infection typically begins with flu-like symptoms and swelling of the lymph nodes and progresses to a rash on the face and body.

Symptoms include: fever; headache; muscle aches and backaches; swollen lymph nodes; chills; exhaustion; a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appears on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.

Most infections last two to four weeks and resolve on their own, but some cases can become severe. 

How is Monkeypox spread? 

Transmission occurs through close physical contact with bodily fluids, monkeypox sores, items that have been contaminated with fluids or sores, or respiratory droplets following prolonged face-to-face contact. This can occur through crowded settings or sexual contact. 

Unlike COVID-19, which spreads easily through the air, the risk of monkeypox to the public is currently low unless they engage in higher-risk behaviors. Having sex with multiple sex partners can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected when monkeypox is spreading in the community. 

Preventative Measures

How to protect yourself

  • Consider covering exposed skin in dense, indoor crowds 
  • Don’t share bedding or clothing with others when possible 
  • Before having close, physical contact with others, talk to your partners about their health and any recent rashes or sores 
  • Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are monkeypox outbreaks 
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you were potentially exposed. You may be a candidate for a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the development of the disease 

How to protect others

If you have symptoms, particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed: 

  • Stay home if you are feeling sick 
  • Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation 
  • Avoid skin-to-skin or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed 
  • Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing 
  • Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing 
  • Wear a well-fitted mask
  • If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposed.

While many of the cases currently appearing are within networks of self-identified gay and bisexual men, trans people, and men who have sex with men, people of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected and spread monkeypox.  

For more information regarding monkeypox, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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